Pernell was hired by the University of Minnesota as a professor of social work in 1948, the same year that Edwin D. Driver was hired by the University of Massachusetts. Pernell and Driver are believed to be the first black faculty members hired by a state flagship university in the twentieth century.
At the end of her career, Pernell was considered a pioneer in the field international social work.
- "NASW Social Work Pioneers". Retrieved 4 March 2013.
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- "Key Events in Black Higher Education: JBHE Chronology of Major Landmarks in the Progress of African Americans in Higher Education". The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
- "NASW Social Work Pioneers". NASW Foundation. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
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